Summer sports leagues holding out hope in light of Dr. Henry's comments

April is the month when outdoor spring and summer sports clubs begin their season and start ramping up activity.

For the past month and a half, youth and amateur leagues everywhere have been waiting with baited breath for some sign of hope that there could be a summer sports season, and some direction as to whether they should cancel their seasons altogether or continue to push back the date. 

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While individual sports like golf may still take place, team sports face a different issue altogether.

Fort St. John Minor Lacrosse, North Peace Minor Baseball, and the Fort St. John Soccer Club have all kept hope of a season alive, while high school sports like rodeo and track and field remain uncertain. For adults, the hope of a Fort St. John Mixed Slow Pitch season is unwavering. 

These organizations got a small boost of optimism Tuesday when Dr. Bonnie Henry answered a question on the possibility of summer youth sports during her daily press conference.

“I think it’s really important, and we know that it is less risky outside than inside,” Dr. Henry said. “We know how important it is to have physical exercise, particularly for young people, over the summer months and into the fall. I think there are ways – it can be done.”

Not surprisingly, Dr. Henry didn't provide any details on when sports could return and be safe to play, or as to what changes might have to be made to make any kind of team sport possible. However, she didn't say it would not happen, and an open-ended answer will keep the possibility of a minor lacrosse or soccer season of some sort alive for now. 

Still, Dr. Henry did caution that there would be many factors to consider before a decision could be made. 

“We need to look at how do we do it safely so that we’re not sharing water bottles, sharing food … we’re respecting those safe distances but still being able to carry on,” said Dr. Henry. “We are also thinking about the numbers of people that are involved, and we may have to limit that for a period — for this summer, for the coming year, so that we don’t have large crowds watching games for example.”

Local clubs are in a holding pattern, but are constantly coming up with plans and ideas of what a season could like if and when the go-ahead is granted.

"As soon as they do allow us, we'll open registration and start programming," said Fort St. John Soccer Club President Darren Snider. "Whether it's a regular league or something more camp based remains to be seen, but we think it would take us about two weeks to get up and running once we get the go ahead."

The club is under the discretion of the Alberta Soccer Association, which ultimately will be told by Canada Soccer when it can begin operations. Snider said it's possible some provinces will be allowed to begin play before others. 

Either way, Snider is excited about what games and practices could like if some sort of season takes place.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club's executive had already planned to do things a bit differently for its youngest age groups, with less focus on games, and more on a grass-roots, developmental system. 

North Peace Minor Baseball President Forrest Liddicoat is a bit more uncertain as the minor baseball season usually runs from May to June.

However, he kept all options open, saying a season into July could work if less families are travelling out of town in the summer and just looking for some sort of physical activity for their kids. Either way, he is hopefuly there can be some sort of minor baseball played, even if it's just a weekly drop-in night for a month or two.

Fort St. John Minor Lacrosse announced two weeks it was delaying its season for an indefinite amount of time, but wouldn't be cancelling it altogether. 

"Although we didn't get to start the season before we had to go on lockdown, we didn't want to cancel it. We keep pushing it back and playing it by ear, because even if we can't get a season in until June, we think we could pull something together," said Fort St. John Lacrosse President Annika Hedican. "We're pretty good at pulling things together in a short amount of time."

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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